The Back Story.
The meaning of social and communication skills is something that has got me thinking for years. I have always been wondering why I am an introvert person and how to change that for my own good. One thing I know for sure- when you start doing something you love it gets easier to break out of your comfort zone.
But let’s start from the beginning…
This one right here is the place where I grew up:
You might think this is a tiny village or suburbs next to a bigger city. But when you zoom out a bit, it looks like this:
So we could say that I grew up in the middle of the forest. Literally. There was no bus that could take me… anywhere.
My parents founded a boarding school/music school. So during the school year, we had around 80 people living here, but when the summer came and everyone traveled back home, it was just us and a second family that lived across a small river. But we did not meet them very often. Not to get too much into detail, I can say that I spent most of my summers walking around with my dog, finding different animals, running away from bats in the dark and singing songs I just made up in my head just to never hear them again. And believe me or not- I really loved it. Till this day I still remember it as one of the most beautiful times of my life.
I have thought about this a lot and while my siblings hated this place and moved to the closest city as fast as they could justify their need to leave, I was deeply heartbroken once my mom moved me from this beautiful forest to the capital city of Latvia. I had to change my environment from no people around and only nature sounds to all noises at one place.
Despite all, I was good with change. I have always been. I have changed schools 5 times, moved around at least 10 times (including moving abroad), changed 3 universities and I haven’t even started with my social network. It is not easy to keep long lasting friendships when you are moving around a lot. Even when I was very keen on keeping them.
I was not the shyest kid growing up. I loved meeting new people and showing them around our school and forest, but when we moved to the capital (Riga), something changed in me. I did not know how to deal with so many people at the same time and how to stay calm when everything around me was so loud and crowded at times. So I became this weird kid who found her consolation in reading and studying. I had to be the best. At everything. Everything felt wrong if I was not the first student in my class. I didn’t care about the popular kids and what they did, but once the teenage years hit us all, they started to care about me and teasing was the new favorite game.
And this is when I started to understand that social and communication skills are essential if you live in the capital and don’t want to get teased too much.
The Game Changer.
I changed the school one last time and decided to become the master of social interaction. I collaborated with my classmate and friend to write a school play and we brought it to stage in front of the entire school. I dragged my self to participate in public speaking competitions and I even joined the actors’ course. And this is when I realized that social skills are something that can be taught, practiced and learned. Practice makes perfect, they say. I just needed a reason to keep going.
This is when my travels and love for photography came into the picture. I noticed that whenever I traveled, I naturally became a great conversation initiator. And whenever I took a picture of someone I became so extremely interested in their life story that I forgot all about my social anxiety and I no longer needed any actors course to teach me how to interact with others more efficiently.
An Advice to all the Introverts from a Fellow Introvert.
- If you are an introvert and you DON’T feel like it reduces the quality of your life, do not change. I truly believe that we need different kinds of people on this planet.
- If you are an introvert and you feel like IT DOES reduce the quality of your life, remember that social and communication skills are something that can be taught, practiced and learned.
- Find your personal reason to overcome your social anxiety (Is it going to make you happier? Less stressed? Will it raise your self-esteem?). Think of how your life will change when you will manage to overcome your anxiety.
- If you can’t find any personal reason, you can look into some research. Did you know that well established social skills can increase your happiness? Did you know that it can boost your self-esteem which can reduce your stress levels?
- Try to find something that feels the most natural for you to do. For example, if you love taking pictures, find a story to tell with your picture and you will see how easy it can be to forget all about your fears just because you want to hear the story a person or a community has to tell. Or if you love traveling, think of how much easier it would be to find your way around with the help of locals in case your phone dies. Or if you love reading. Think of how many book suggestions you could get if you interacted (you could even find a new found talent whose amazing book is yet to be discovered.)
- Remember that developing social skills is nothing more than to be aware of HOW we communicate with others. Can you improve your speech? Can you force yourself to take your hands out of the pockets when speaking? Can you genuinely try to be interested in what the other person is telling you? Yes, you can. You just have to remember the reason you are doing this for.
- You can find plenty of free content on how to improve your social skills. Starting from talking to yourself in the mirror and judging your own body language, till the art of asking questions. Seriously, just have to google it!
The only thing google can’t give you is the reason to do this. But if you have read this article so far, I am sure that deep inside you know your reason. Just act on it.
That’s it for now and I wish you a productive day!
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